Cinematically speaking, Dusty, our plucky everyplane, flies a little higher in the sequel to 2013's Planes. But that's not saying much, because the original was strictly a lawnmower of a kids' film.
The animation in Planes: Fire & Rescue is considerably better, the landscapes grander, and the 3-D flight and firefighting scenes more exciting.
But you get the same lame puns wedged into a succession of situations, rather than a story. Dane Cook, whose voice is blander than grits, returns as Dusty. The plot relies far too much on sad sentimental moments it does nothing to earn, and the big musical number - "Still I Fly," sung by Spencer Lee - is cloying.
The premise: Dusty must retire from the aerial racing circuit. To help his old friends in sleepy Propwash Junction, he travels to rugged Piston Peak National Park to be certified as a firefighter.
That means he gets involved with a whole new cadre of talking planes, trucks, forklifts, helicopters, and other anthropomorphically rendered vehicles. You know what that means: new playsets of action toys from Disney, Mattel, and Playskool.
The augmented roster of voices in the sequel is pretty impressive, with Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Julie Bowen, Regina King, Jerry Stiller, Patrick Warburton, John Michael Higgins, Erik Estrada, Curtis Armstrong, Rene Auberjonois, and others joining the returning Cook, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, and Brad Garrett.
Of course, if reading the cast list is more fun than watching the movie, you've got serious engine trouble.
Planes: Fire & Rescue 1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Roberts Gannaway. With the voices of Dane Cook, Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios.
Running time: 1 hour, 23 mins.
Parent's guide: PG (peril).
Playing at: area theaters.